I did it; I went unshodden, barefoot, without shoes, on Tuesday evening, in public, in a restaurant, for the very first time.
I toyed with the idea during the day, whilst it was light, reasonably mild and I was encouraged by the knowledge I was meeting the same group of friends who had instigated the whole barefooted ‘challenge’ in the first place.
By the time it came to leave the house, outside it was minus 2 degrees, extremely dark and not feeling like quite such an ‘obvious’ a thing to do.
So I did it anyway.
There is something very surreal about putting a coat, hat and gloves on and not shoes, or boots. They were totally bare – other than my face, they were the only bits of skin that were left uncovered; they seemed very ‘visible’ and a little vulnerable. I was aware of a very loud voice in my head, “Your shoes dummy, you’ve forgotten your shoes, you can’t go out without shoes on.”
So I did it anyway.
After a couple of minutes sitting in the truck debating whether or not a freezing cold, wet January night was really was the right time to ‘free my feet’, I drove out of my narrow little lane with the bare toes of my right foot curled around the accelerator and my left foot trying to get comfortable amongst the grit and debris that collects in the foot well of a ‘country vehicle’. Note to self: Clean out truck.
As I drove to the restaurant, I realised I hadn’t even put a pair of boots in the truck – just in case … Another note to self.
The restaurant car park was quite full. I had assumed I would park right next to the door but obviously neglected to actually visualise that part … notebook to self filling up nicely!
So there I was, parked 30 yards away from the restaurant, watching the rain bounce off the windscreen, noting the huge piles of snow still piled up in some of the car park bays and I had no shoes or socks on … nor did I have any shoes or socks that I could have put on. People were walking past my truck, wrapped up in coats, hats, gloves and scarves … and with their winter boots on.
My fear wasn’t of any physical discomfort or danger but of being confronted, challenged, chastised.
I really didn’t want to be asked to leave, not in public. I may have ditched the shoes and socks but obviously not the ego then ….
I had deliberately put my ‘flariest’- legged jeans in an attempt to hide my nakedness but my feet were like small children on a school trip, they were excited to be out and wanted to see what was going on. I had naively hoped it would at least look as though I had sandals or flip flops on (like that would be acceptable in these sub-zero temperatures) but it didn’t; it looked like I had forgotten to put my shoes and socks on. The visual contrast of bare feet on wet tarmac was quite simply astonishing.
I strode through the car park, over the cobbled entrance and into the restaurant. So far, so good. The girls were at the farthest side of the dining room, so I focussed on them and walked past the bar and along the full length of the busy dining room without shoes or sock on. We did the whole hug and greeting thing and I sat down, glad to be tucking my feet under the table. No one, not even the girls, had noticed, or at least no one had shouted or asked me to leave. Ten minutes later, I confessed and was hugely supported and encouraged by these special women. Throughout the evening, my feet and their fate thankfully took a back seat but I was constantly aware of their nakedness. I felt every little change in temperature, the soft carpet beneath them, the hard wooden cross bar of the table; they felt happy, involved and content. And so did I.
Just a couple of hours later, the return trip through the car park to the truck seemed far more natural and even normal. Fear and anticipation had morphed into excitement and reality. My feet were tingly, yes, they were cold but it was a different type of tingly. They felt alive, present and communicative. And so did I.
And as I lay in bed, reliving the whole unshodden experience, I was still very aware of my feet. Despite being exposed to grit, puddles and below freezing temperatures this evening, they felt warm, energised and well, just connected to something wonderful. And so did I.